Discovering Taipei with Kids
- New blogger / travelling mom’s reflections
- Our hotel Experience
- Taipei 101
- The Museum of Contemporary Art (Moca)
- Ningxia Night Market
- Breakfast thoughts
- The Maokong Gondola
It’s funny how time heals bad experiences. I remember returning from Taipei (five weeks ago) with this great post in mind dramatically ranting about our Taipei trip. At that time, I returned home literally telling myself “at least I have all my children and at least my marriage is still intact.” Maybe I should have written my post then and there.
Note to self as a new blogger: “Write your posts sooner than later!”
New blogger moment aside, today I look back on that trip with fondness. Yes it was hectic, but I feel like I have a better sense of awareness for how we, as a family, need to navigate big cities in the future.
Taipei, in my books, was a bit of a flop
Not an explosive end-of-the-world or end-of-the-marriage kind of a thing. But more of a fizzle. It had some great moments, but could have been a lot more fun and a lot less stressful.
It’s only after living in Taiwan for three months that we finally made a weekend trip to the capital city of Taipei. I would love to say that, as parents of three kids, we rocked this experience. I would love to write a post that all perspective parents of young children will refer to as the “Must Use Taipei Guide,” but alas, this trip, in my books was a bit of a flop.
How not to book and Where not to stay
Does it ever happen to you that a small task seems huge so you end up procrastinating until the very last minute? Well it does to me, more often than I would like to admit. This was certainly the case when I booked our Taipei lodging. For weeks (maybe 5?) I had been researching where we would stay. Were there any family-friendly hotels? Or was Airbnb the way to go?
Just a reminder…we are a one-income family – We travel on a budget.
So although some big hotels seemed great,they just did not suit our budget. My research was not landing me any quaint family hotels like Best Westerns, so Airbnb seemed like the way to go. When I initially searched, there were many available places within our budget which was maybe $1500 NTD / night. Unfortunately, I didn’t book at the time because I kept wanting to check in with my husband, and thus kept putting it off. One week before leaving for Taipei, there were not many options left. Airbnb was no longer affordable.
it’ll (barely) do in a pinch
We ended up booking a room at Oversleep hotel through Agoda. The location, Banqiao, was great. I really liked the liveliness of the neighbourhood. There was a park for kids nearby, tons of cheap food and a night market. The hotel suite, however, was pretty crappy. One bed was super hard and the other was super soft. There was a bottom sheet and a duvet. This leads me to ask… do they wash the duvet before the next guest comes? I didn’t think so. The overall cleanliness of the place was definitely questionable. In the corners of the floor we could see dirt. The bathroom was… meh… it fit the style of the room.
Get my drift?
HOT TIP! So my hot lodging tip for anyone going to Taipei with kids in the future is to book early! Consider Airbnb or something similar that may offer more bang for your buck. Last but not least, the actual neighbourhood doesn’t matter too much… just make sure you are within close walking distance to an MRT station and maybe a playground.
Saturday was our planned “Big Day.” Originally Saturday only had two items on the agenda – Taipei 101 and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). We got up early and were at Taipei 101 by 10:30. Getting in and to the top was easy but pricey! For two adults and a seven year old it cost us over $1700 NTD! The three year old and baby were free.
Was it worth it? Is Taipei an aesthetically beautiful city? Well, it’s not Paris. Was it cool to be ridiculously high in the air and to get there in 40 seconds via a super fast elevator? Yes. I would say it’s worth doing once.
HOT TIP! Go early! By the time we left at 12:30, the place was packed and lineups were huge.
Need to feed your munchkins? There is a food court in the basement of Taipei 101, a Healthy-style expensive grocery store and a famous dumpling restaurant with a queue. Standing outside of Taipei 101 we could not see anywhere to eat. The street was full of big buildings. I would bring snacks for convenience and budget, but as mentioned, food is available in the building.
For the record, Taipei 101 was not a flop. I’m glad we went, glad we went early and glad that we skipped the dumplings. Travelling with kids = keeping it easy!
Next on our list was MOCA. This was a surprisingly pleasant experience. Our toddler fell asleep in the stroller throughout the entire museum trip which was a bonus! The Art here was really interesting and varied, and the gallery itself was not too huge. Our 9-year-old was able to enjoy the experience. She related to the art, recognizing Pegasus, and shared her feelings and thoughts on different pieces. For younger children (ages 2-8) the gallery has an educational room (free) with a related art activity. We skipped this though, as Liv thought it was a little young for her. Also not a flop! Yay!
Learning to leave stuff out
Where things started to go downhill that Saturday was when I added a cross-city stop at a bike store. This was not a kid-oriented stop and was quite out-of-the-way for us. We did stop at a small park afterwards, but it was swarming with mosquitoes. By 4pm the kids (and I) were starting to feel hungry and Liv was tired from all the walking around. We had not thought in advance of where to eat and we had not brought snacks. This kinda stressed me out – I get stressed around food or at the thought of a lack of food. This is an area where my husband and I differ. I try to plan with food and snacks in mind where as he just wants to get out and figure it out on route.
After a quick google search at the park, we decided to hit the Ningxia Night Market because it was known for it’s food. The kids were tired at this point, so we were literally dragging them along. The market itself was super-busy and not-at-all stroller friendly. Don’t get me wrong though, it was really cool! Imagine two long lines of food vendors making a space between them just wide enough for people to walk in both directions. It’s a squishy and slow process, but felt very cultural. The variety of food was great. For our picky and unfortunately wheat-free monkey, we found rice noodles with soy sauce which she was happy with. Theo had a baked potato. Loren had fried chicken and I had some beef cooked right before my eyes with a blow torch. It was fun. We had tasty drinks consisting of lemonade and watermelon juice.
Sunday, we had one item planned on the agenda: The Maokong Gondola. I had got the idea from another family blog where the author expressed how much their kids loved it. Awesome! Nature and something completely out of the ordinary. That Sunday morning we woke up bright and early (7ish) and got ready to leave.
Had I been smart, I would have done most of the packing the night before. But, being still new to having THREE (holy cow!) children, I didn’t do this. We didn’t get out of our hotel until 9:30am. During this time, however, I did manage to feed the children (check). Saturday morning we had not been able to find kid friendly breakfast food, so for this particular morning, we hit a 7-11 the night before and stocked the fridge with yogurt and other items.
HOT TIP! plan or at least think about your breakfasts. In north America, breakfast is a huge thing. Here in Taiwan it’s not so huge and there are no “breakfast joints” per say. A lot of street vendors and restaurants don’t open until later in the day. That said, we noticed vendors that cater specifically to a breakfast crowd, but they seem to be few and far between and not always kid-popular or wheat-free.
From our hotel we went to the Main MRT station to lock up our bags. It cost 10 NTD per hour for one locker but we ended up needing two. It was easy and a great way to be hands-free for the day. Unfortunately it was around this time that I lost my Easy Card with over 100 NTD on it. Such is life.
Finding our way slowly but surely
Getting to the Gondola is a bit of a long haul but it’s not too hard. From the Main Station you must take two trains. First You take the blue line (Ban Nan Line) and at Zhonghxiao Fuxing Station, you change to the Brown line (Wen Hu Xian Line) getting off at the Taipei Zoo.
Now just because I said it wasn’t too hard, doesn’t mean we didn’t take a couple wrong turns. From the Main station, we ended up taking the Blue Line in the wrong direction. We figured this out pretty quickly, however, and were back on track shortly. Once we boarded the Blue Line in the correct direction, Loren got distracted chatting with another passenger while I was busy juggling three children. Needless to say, we missed the Zhonghxiao Fuxing Station. These little mishaps are no big deal when your alone, but travelling with we ones, it can be a drag. Thankfully it was still early in the day and they were in good spirits… happy to laugh it off. When we finally got on the Brown Line, we were thankful to be able to chill and enjoy the ride for 20 minutes.
At the Gondola
Once we arrived at the Maokong Gondola, we bought our tickets right away on our left and then joined the enormous queue. It was one of those devastatingly long line-ups but we were pleasantly surprised at how fast it went.
HOT MAOKONG TICKETING TIPS!
- You must pay extra for a glass bottom gondola, at the ticketing desk.
- If you have an Easy Card with enough money on it, you may simply scan that before entering the gondola.
- You cannot buy an Easy Card at the Gondola, so buy this at a Taipei 7-11 or the like beforehand.
- Kid discounts only apply to Taiwanese students.
- For more info on tickets, click here.
Overall, the gondola was a blast. We all loved it! From the bottom (Taipei Zoo station) to the top (Maokong Station) was a long trip. We felt like we really had the time to awe at the sights and the height.
At the top
Once we got to the top it felt very touristy. There was a road that we could take either to the right or to the left. At this point, we were hungry, and finding lunch was the plan. We headed to the left where we passed through market style street food venues. In retrospect, stopping here for some cheap food would have been smart but we wanted a different experience. Restaurant prices were a little above our budget, but we finally chose a round-table style restaurant. It was delicious and they served us tea popsicles on our way out.
After lunch we kept walking up the wide windy road passing many tea houses. Loren had his heart set on the Taipei Tea Promotion Centre at the end of the road. It had free tea tastings, a small museum room, a nice outdoor space and an indoor space where we could sit. Theo and Liv enjoyed feeding the fish in the pond and Loren and Liv enjoyed a tea-tasting which eventually led to them buying some tea. I enjoyed the view, sitting – relaxing, with baby on breast. 🙂
The long road home
Leaving the Tea house marked the start of long journey home to Hsinchu City. It was already 4pm in the afternoon. We had to take the Gondola and two trains just to get to the Taipei Main station.
It was around this time that I lost my husband’s Easy Card with over 200 NTD on it. He was less than pleased as I had lost mine the day before.
From the Main Station, we could either take the HSR and a taxi home, or one long bus. We opted for the bus because it meant less transfers despite being the longer (and cheaper) option. I will admit that this was a push on my end, and again, was maybe not the best move. Taking the long route and saving a buck is one thing when you are without children. But with little ones? Maybe it’s worth spending the extra dough to get to the final destination a little sooner.
We didn’t end up getting home until 9pm at night. This included spending 20 minutes finding dinner in the train station. This included 40 minutes of getting lost in an underground mall (ugggh!). This included a long bus ride where husband and wife decided to discuss how to better plan a trip in the future which only lead to frustrations towards each another. This included the bus dropping us farther away than we expected, and thus needing to walk 10 minutes home with exhausted children.
We made it home eventually. And as I mentioned at the very beginning of this post, we look back on this trip with fondness.